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We asked ELi readers to submit questions for the seven candidates for the East Lansing Public Schools’ Board of Education. We selected five (some questions were duplicated) and have run candidate responses to those questions this week. Today we bring you answers to the final question. The answers have not been edited.
Question 5: What three issues at the high school would you say constitute relative high priority for the School Board to manage?
Hillary Henderson: Our High School students are put under tremendous stresses in terms of grades, college applications, part time jobs, extra-curricular activities, sports, social situations, etc. We need to put a focus on mental health and stress management.
Due to our diverse population at the High School, it is important for the School Board and District to continue evaluating programming to make sure we are meeting the needs of all of our students in many ways.
Also, we need to promote a safe and welcoming environment for all students regardless of race, religion or socio-economic status.
Kyle Guerrant: Three areas of focus the School Board should prioritize at the high school should revolve around reducing barriers to learning and teaching. Increasing access to school based behavioral health services, as well as social emotional education should be a priority. If students are not healthy, or do not feel safe, they cannot effectively learn in the classroom. Expanding rigorous, differentiated educational opportunities is needed to challenge and support academic growth for all students, and is central to successfully address the district's opportunity gap (commonly referred to as achievement gap). Additional revisions to the schools student discipline polices are needed to ensure appropriate use of exclusionary discipline practices. Students cannot learn, and teachers cannot teach if children are not in school due to suspension or expulsion.
Robert Clark: The biggest issues facing the school board are addressing the needs of our economically disadvantaged and our students of color to ensure their educational needs are met this was partially addressed in previous questions but can be further improved with hiring of diverse teachers, establishing and ensuring that board policies are reflective of our values as a community and promote student educational achievement. These policies should value students and teachers over bureaucracy. Finally, our sex education policy needs to continue to be improved upon. I know this is a complicated subject, and a discussion many are not keen on having. However, if in any other category were the schools to perform as badly as it had with sex education and relationships, we would have been accused of deliberately sabotaging out students changes at employment and higher education. I know these issues can be addressed and resolved for everyone’s benefit.
Erin Graham: The three issues at the high school that constitute relative high priority for the School Board to manage are 1) the opportunity gap 2) mental health and 3) class size/case load.
Economically disadvantaged and minority students continue to be the most underserved students at the high school. We must draw upon the expertise of our teachers and administrators to offer these students additional educational opportunities, and as board members we must allocate resources to address the opportunity gap.
We should review and support programming that addresses students' social-emotional well being and school connectedness. On Monday, October 24, I am bringing forward a motion to form a mental health advisory committee that will help us move forward in this process. https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicItemDownload.aspx?mk=50219030&fn=agenda.pdf
We need to ensure that class sizes and teachers’ caseloads stay at levels that allow teachers time to provide all students with rigorous and equitable learning opportunities.
Kath Edsall: It is imperative that the board show initiative on issues related to mental health throughout the district. We need to free up counselor time to meet with students needing support. Teachers need training to help students who are struggling. Everyone needs access to information about referral and followup procedures.
Diversity of the teaching staff is a must if we wish to be fully inclusive. We must seek a broad applicant pool from colleges within the state as well as Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Increased diversity leads to increased achievement by students of color and encourages greater college participation by minority students.
Lastly, we must support our students in regards to post secondary planning. Our counselors need support in order to work with every child on their goals, how to complete college applications, financial aid applications and make the transition from high school to college, trade school or work.
Mike Conlin: Based on events at the high school over the past year, three important issue are improving students’ mental health, taking even greater advantage of our student body diversity, and improving the academic performance of disadvantaged students. While the school board should be aware and monitor how our professional staff address these issues, I do not believe it is the board’s role to “manage” these issues. East Lansing teachers, administrators and staff are much better trained and have a much better understanding of these issues than the school board. Rather than manage these issues, the school board should focus on providing the teachers, administrators, specialists, counselors and para-pros with the necessary resources to address these issues. My understanding of Michigan’s K-12 funding structure, my training as an economist, and my engineering/construction background provide me with a unique skill set to do exactly this.
Nichole Martin: The School Board has to do a better job of supporting post-secondary education guidance for all students regardless of current educational placement in school. There is an intense focus on advanced courses. With adequate resources to support these options, students can be very successful. Students with specialized educational programming, adequate resources and support, students can thrive. However, we have a large number of students lacking basic educational guidance, access to resources and support in reaching post-secondary education.
Mental Health needs to be addressed as it continues to be something that is spoken of reactively. We need better support, resources and collaboration to address and educate students and teachers regarding mental health issues.
Lastly, I believe that the standards for discipline and accountability for student behavior needs to be addressed. I believe that district policies need to be revamped regarding bullying behaviors and disciplinary action taken at all educational levels.
For more information on the election and candidates, please click here.
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